Strokes will cost New Zealand $1.1 billion this year according to a report released today by the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand. The research completed by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) confirmed strokes have a significant impact on life expectancy and quality of life, and at current rates are likely to cost New Zealand $1.7 billion by 2038.
Research published in 2018 forecast a 40 percent increase in the number of strokes in New Zealand over the next decade. “But the NZIER research shows a 24 percent increase in stroke numbers in the last three years already,” says Mark Vivian, CEO of the Stroke Foundation. The report estimates 11,169 New Zealanders will experience a stroke this year.
The Stroke Foundation is concerned that very little is being done to prevent strokes.
“I’m appalled that the annual financial cost to this country is so high, yet even conservative research indicates 75 percent of strokes are preventable. The government is doing so little in the prevention space,” says Mr Vivian.
The New Zealand government spends less than three percent of its health budget on public health prevention services. “The Stroke Foundation committed 13 percent of our budget last year to stroke prevention initiatives. We call on the next government to increase its commitment to disease prevention to 5 percent by 2023, to reduce the heavy social and economic burden of stroke to New Zealand.”
High blood pressure is the biggest preventable risk factor for stroke. In the last year, the Stroke Foundation provided almost 24,000 New Zealanders with a free blood pressure check. About one percent of those tested had a result so high on the day that they were referred to a medical service for immediate follow up. The Stroke Foundation estimates that this alone saved $2.25 million in health costs.
Mr Vivian explains: “We receive no government money to support our stroke prevention programmes and yet if we were funded to provide 50,000 free blood pressure checks a year, we estimate this would save $10 million in health costs.”
While 75 percent of strokes occur in people aged over 65 years, for Māori and Pacific people, nearly 60 percent of strokes happen between the ages of 15 and 65. “There’s no doubt that prevention initiatives targeted at Māori and Pacific people will more than pay for themselves while reducing the burden of stroke in these communities,” says Mr Vivian.
In this last financial year, the Foundation had total operating costs of $5 million.
The Stroke Foundation summary report can be found here.
The full NZIER report can be found here.
 The New Zealand Medical Journal (2018), https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal-articles/projected-stroke-volumes-to-provide-a-10-year-direction-for-new-zealand-stroke-services